Deaths under custody ‘entirely preventable’, say lawyers

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PETALING JAYA: Police must accept responsibility for the death of detainee Thanaseelan Muniandy on Feb 5, which could have been prevented had the police obeyed the Lock-up Rules 1953, say his family lawyers.

A post-mortem has revealed that Thanaseelan, 43, died of septicaemia due to suppurative peritonitis as a consequence of a perforated gastric ulcer, which was “entirely preventable”, said the lawyers in a statement released on behalf of the deceased’s family today.

The lawyers said the Lock-up Rules made it clear that police must care for the well-being of all detainees, including informing the medical authorities of any illnesses or injuries affecting detainees.

They said the Lock-up Rules also provided for situations where a detainee might not be fit to be further detained, for example, if the detainee was seriously ill and should be admitted for medical treatment.

“According to the pathologists, due to the serious gastric ulcer perforation and infection, the deceased would have been in considerable pain for at least a week prior to his death,” said the lawyers, Eric Paulsen and Melissa Sasidaran.

“Further, he would have been extremely weak and unable to eat due to his condition.

“Since the medical evidence show that Thanaseelan would have been in considerable pain, why were the police still keeping him in their lock-up?

“He should have been rushed to the hospital immediately,” they said.

The lawyers said Thanaseelan’s family was also not told of the seriousness of his condition and they were only informed of some emergency claiming he was ill when in fact he was already dead.

Thanaseelan was arrested and detained on Feb 22. He died at the Bukit Sentosa police station, Bukit Beruntung, near here, on Feb 25 at 1.50am.

The lawyers said questions must be asked as to why the detainee was not properly diagnosed on the seriousness of his condition when he was admitted to the Kuala Kubu Baru Hospital on Feb 24.

“Instead, he was allegedly only prescribed with antacid for his gastric (condition),” read the statement.

Due to the prevalence of custodial deaths and the vulnerable condition of detainees, the medical authorities ought to pay extra care and attention to all detainees brought in for treatment, it said.

“We call upon the health ministry and all hospitals to treat all detainees with the same professional care and attention as they would any other patients.

“Remand suspects should not be treated as lesser human beings deserving a lesser level of medical treatment just because they are in police custody.”